With coronavirus infections on the rise statewide, a greater number of Florida voters plan to vote by mail than ever. And a poll conducted for AARP Florida and Florida Politics shows vast majority trust in that process.
But comments by President Donald Trump disparaging mail-in votes rattled faith in the methodology among those partisan voters he most needs to turn out this November.
The survey, conducted by St. Pete Polls on July 13 and 14, shows most likely Florida voters feel very secure (44%) or mostly secure (21%) casting a ballot by mail.
Moreover, nearly half of those surveyed (49%) intend to vote by mail in this year’s election. And 93% of respondents have not lost trust in America’s voting systems. Pollsters report a margin of error of 1.8%.
“At a time when voting-by-mail is being questioned, it’s clear that an overwhelming of Floridians trust this method, just as they trust their local officials to conduct a free and fair election,” said Florida Politics publisher Peter Schorsch. “If this poll shows anything, it’s that Floridians trust democracy.”
As the COVID-19 scare threatens the health of older Americans in particular, AARP Florida State Director Jeff Johnson said it’s especially important voters believe in the integrity of the process.
“During these crucial times it is imperative that we have an election system that Floridians can trust and feel secure knowing that their ballot will be counted,” AARP Florida State Director Jeff Johnson said. “We want to make sure Floridians understand their voting options and feel safe casting their ballot.”
Change of practice
Poll results show a significant number of voters intend to vote-by-mail despite choosing a different method in past elections. This year, 49% plan to vote through mail, while another 27% plan to do so in-person at early voting locations, and just 24% intend to wait and vote in-person on Election Day.
But Republican voters seem less fearful of COVID-19 and more concerned about potential fraud in the postal process. Nearly 62% of Democrats in Florida plan to vote by mail, as do 55% of independents. Only 34% of Republicans plan to do the same.
But 35% of survey respondents said vote-by-mail was their preferred method in prior elections, while 32% historically favored early voting and 33% preferred going to the polls on Election Day.
A look Division of Elections figures shows that closely aligns with voters’ actual practice two years ago. In the 2018 election, 32% of ballots in Florida were cast by mail, while 32% were cast in early voting and 36% were cast on Election Day. In the 2016 Presidential election, about 29% of Florida voters cast ballots by mail, while 40% participated in early voting and 31% voted on Election Day.
Florida voters for years have increasingly chosen methods for voting before polls open on Election Day, but concerns about COVID-19 appear to be driving more toward mail voting than ever before. More than 49% of voters agreed with a statement expressing worry about voting in person due to fear of catching the coronavirus.
Yet, that trend ramps up as Trump assails the security of mail-in voting.
Just Tuesday, Trump tweeted: “Mail-In Voting, unless changed by the courts, will lead to the most CORRUPT ELECTION in our Nation’s History! #RIGGEDELECTION”
The President undermined the method for months, despite casting his first ballot as a Florida voter using the mail.
The assault on the process has definitely impacted voter sentiment on mail-in voting, raising doubts among those who Trump most needs participating this year.
Just 43% of voters polled agreed with the statement “President Trump said voting by mail leads to voter fraud and this gives me concerns about voting by mail.” But while 72% of Republicans surveyed agree with the statement, Trump’s disparagement of vote-by-mail only holds weight with under 38% of independent voters and less than 18% of Democrats.
Notably, Republicans also feel fewer qualms about voting in-person during a pandemic. Less than 30% of Republicans said they worried about catching the virus at the polls, compared to 58% of independents and 64% of Democrats.
With Republicans more convinced of voter fraud than they are about a public health threat, it may mean any loss in GOP turnout by mail gets offset with votes turning out on Election Day.
But with the indication a record number of ballots will be cast by post this year, count on heartburn for GOP consultants tracking returns ahead of Nov. 3.
Keeping the faith
Whatever concerns voters may feel about the pandemic, fraud or Trump’s rhetoric, there’s a determination to vote across the electorate — and a confidence in the integrity of Florida’s voting processes.
Nearly 96% of voters polled say they are “absolutely certain” they will vote in the November election, with another 3% saying they are “very likely” to do so.
Nearly 86% of voters like that Florida offers the choice of vote-by-mail, early voting or Election Day voting. That includes 77% of Republicans, 93% of Democrats and 89% of independents.
About 46% of voters expressed fear that if they vote by mail, their ballot won’t count and they will never know. That anxiety rang true of 65% of Republicans, as well as 30% of Democrats and 40% of independents.
But nearly 84% of voters trust their local Supervisor of Elections to conduct fair elections, a figure largely consistent across party lines.